Sir Charles, Region 7 Prix St. George Champion who also vaulted at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, with Haley Smith
(photo courtesy Terri Miller)
Simple answer: both! If you’re a rider, vaulting can help you develop better balance, better posture, and a better seat. Vaulters also have a deeper understanding of the way a horse moves, and they are able to concentrate on their skills without the distractions from a saddle or reins. It provides a solid foundation for all riding disciplines. Vaulting horses are developed through the Training Pyramid, which creates a solid foundation for the horse and complements all other horse sports.
Vaulting is available for all ages and abilities. Adaptive vaulting is designed for people with differing abilities, and can be a great introduction to beginning riding. Riding can help your horse develop better self-carriage and provide a mental break from the routine of the lunge circle, and it also strengthens a vaulter’s abilities. Developing your horsemanship skills in various areas of the equestrian world is encouraged by EVUSA; great vaulters are great equestrians and often compete in various disciplines.
Vaulting horses have to be balanced, strong and move with a consistent tempo. They are required to hold a steady gait, whether in walk, trot or canter, for minutes at a time without breaking their stride. Dressage can enhance the work the horses already do on the lunge line. Dressage helps improve the horse’s concentration and consistency, which is key to completing a strong vaulting routine. In fact, the vaulting horse score is based on the dressage Training Pyramid.
Jumping offers a different mental challenge for vaulting horses, which is a good way to allow them to take a break and try something new. Jumping also helps build strength and confidence in both horse and rider. Many vaulters choose to compete their horses in hunter/jumper and eventing competitions when they aren’t vaulting in order to produce a more well-rounded, experienced horse.
Riding on the trail is a great way to develop a calmer, less reactive horse. Vaulting horses are expected to be steady and quiet and not react to various potential stressors. Trail riding can teach them to get used to dogs, people, vehicles and other things they might encounter. It can also help horses become more sure-footed and balanced. Riders can also deepen their bond with their horses on the trail, experiencing something adventurous together.
There are many different types of disciplines vaulting horses compete in, including Western dressage, endurance and even roping. The goal is to develop a well-rounded horse by identifying a discipline that best produces the strength, stamina and focus required to be successful as a vaulting horse.